The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a Kohistan sessions judge to submit an inquiry report on the alleged killing of five girls and three men from the area who were declared alive following the court’s suo motu hearing in 2012.
A two-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan directed the judge to visit the crime scene along with the relevant district police officer and a senior female police officer and submit a report after probing the issue and the alleged negligence of authorities.
The Kohistan video scandal made headlines in 2012 when three boys and five girls were allegedly killed by members of their tribe after a mobile phone video of them dancing at a wedding in a remote village in Kohistan emerged on social media.
Mohammad Afzal Kohistani, a brother of the boys seen in the video who were allegedly killed by members of their tribe, had earlier demanded the authorities, through the media, to protect his brothers.
The apex court had taken suo motu notice of the issue in 2012 since reports emerged that clerics had allegedly issued orders for the killing of the boys and girls in the video.
Rights activist Farzana Bari during a hearing of the case in October claimed that the girls who were declared alive during the 2012 hearing were, in fact, dead.
Kohistani’s counsel urged the court to summon the girls and hold an in-camera hearing. He claimed that his client had left his permanent residence and would be killed if he returned. He alleged that residents of the area do not wish to testify as witnesses in the case.
DPO Kohistan Abdul Majeed appeared before the court and argued that no women police officers above the rank of deputy superintendent of police was available to them.
A respondent, Habibur Rehman, claimed during today’s hearing that his niece is alive and residing at her home. The other girls were also alive and residing at their homes, he added.
Farzana Bari also appeared before the court and said that the five girls were not brought before the court. She appealed that the girls be produced before the court in order to confirm that they are alive.
The defence lawyer, however, argued that under local norms, it would be a matter of shame if the girls were produced in court.
Justice Afzal remarked that women appeared as witness in a majority of cases he had heard pertaining to Kohistan.
The counsel for the defence argued that the June 20 judicial orders paved the way to reopen the case after submission of additional evidence. He added that despite the passage of one year, no additional evidence had been submitted.
The hearing of the case has been adjourned for two weeks.
Kohistan video case takes another turn
The mystery surrounding the killing of five girls and two men from Kohistan took another turn in October after rights activist Farzana Bari claimed that the girls, who were declared alive during the 2012 Supreme Court suo motu hearing, were dead.
Bari, who also heads the Gender Studies department at Quaid-i-Azam University, was included in the fact finding mission dispatched to Kohistan by the SC to inquire about the well-being of the girls, after allegations emerged that the girls were murdered after their video of clapping during a marriage ceremony went viral.
The witness statement by Bari came after the SC on Sept 27 sent a notice to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government and Kohistan DPO to again investigate the issue.
In her earlier statements, Bari claimed, she had expressed serious doubts that the two girls produced before the commission were not the girls who had appeared in the said video. Bari noted that her views were contrary to the other members’ views on the issue.
Bari said she had appended a dissenting note at that time, demanding involvement of Nadra officials in the case for positive identification of the girls to ensure that the girls produced before the commission were the same girls who appeared in the video.
The case was closed by the then chief justice as it was established the girls were alive.
“Photos of the girls taken during the commission session were given to a Reuters’ journalist, Katharine Houreld, who got the matching done through a renowned independent British agency ‘Digital Barriers’. It was found in the said report that the photos of the girls, who were made to appear before the commission, did not match the images of the girls appearing in the said video,” Bari stated in her witness statement.
Bari also referred to the two press conferences of local leaders in which they had admitted that the girls had been killed.
The rights activist alleged that the local administration including the police had formed some kind of unholy alliance with the elected representatives of the Awami National Party (ANP) to bury the whole issue.
She demanded reproduction the girls in front of the Supreme Court and formation of an independent investigation team to inquire into the issue and the alleged negligence of the authorities.